Little Witcombe, Gloucestershire
Neolithic Causewayed Camp
The first settlement on the site was a causewayed camp of the New
Stone Age. This encampment was encircled by two interrupted ditches, the
stone outcast from which was piled into embankments on the outer sides.
There were two narrow entrances to the central enclosure with gateways
reached over uncut causeways across the defences. Although no occupation
evidence such as post-holes or storage-pits have been discovered which
can be attributed to this period, the discovery of hundreds of flint
arrowheads embedded in the ramparts proves that the site was at least
used as a place of refuge. Traces of a burned palisade atop the defences
are co-incident with the termination of this first occupation period,
which is thought to have lasted between 3,500 to 2,500 BC. Evidence
suggests that the camp was built in two phases, with the second causeway
Iron Age Promontory Hillfort
After a long period of abandonment the promontory hill-top was
re-settled during the Iron Age when a triangular area of around 9 acres
was fortified by a 10 foot (3m) high drystone wall fronted by a deep,
rock-cut ditch erected across the eastern end of the promontory. There
was a narrow entrance passage on the north. Settlement in the Iron Age
was in three phases:
- Started during the 7th/6th century BC, the first rampart was
drystone-faced, the front being vertical and the rear built-up in steps.
The rampart was strengthened by a frame of vertical and horizontal
timbers. A roadway led from the northern gateway through the centre of
the fort with at least six rectangular long-houses measuring between 25
to 75 feet abutting onto the road. These houses were surrounded by
12-foot square timber storage structures. It is thought that the fort
housed between 50 to 200 people, but was abandoned after only a couple
of generations. It is probable that the fort was attacked as both the
gateway and interior buildings were destroyed by fire.
- After a short period the fort was re-occupied and the defenses
strengthened, with the addition of a new vertical drystone front backed
by a simple dump rampart. The roadway from the gate this time led to a
50 foot diameter roundhouse dwelling with a west-facing porch,
surrounded by five other huts, with diameters ranging from 16 to 25
feet, each provided with porches facing south-east.
- After a short period the main gateway was provided with a
couple of massive stone bastions, and an additional external gateway
protected by a large outwork. Occupation seems to have, once again, been
curtailed by violence and the buildings destroyed by fire. Occupancy of
the fort ended in the late 6th century BC.
The fort has been extensively excavated and the various interior
building have been indicated by posts fixed in the original post-holes
and colour coded by period.